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PLATBOS FOREST, GANSBAAI DISTRICT

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PLATBOS (34°34'03.81”S 19°27'38.78”E) is an ancient indigenous forestsituated at the foot of Africa. Described by well-known botanist and author, Professor Eugene Moll, as a "unique South African forest jewel", this is a forest that enchants and inspires all who come to visit. The unlikely existence of this unique forest, the southernmost in Africa of its kind, serves as a powerful symbol of hope for the future. Yet more than a symbol of hope, this forest offers a practical means of addressing some conservation challenges, and the Platbos Conservation Trust, a non-profit organization, manages the dynamic “Reforestation Project: Trees for Tomorrow”. Find a more detailed description of this project at the bottom of this advertorial and see how ordinary citizens can become involved in it.

To crown it all Platbos has recently received official Contract Nature Reserve status from CapeNature. As CapeNature asserts: "Being awarded stewardship status by CapeNature is not an easy task and the approval process a rigorous one – stewardship status is only awarded to properties with high conservation value, in terms of uniqueness, biodiversity and connectivity in the landscape.

Platbos is a unique property and was awarded stewardship status for the following reasons:

1. The structure of Platbos forest is unique. The almost entirely closed upper canopy is not high, being between 4-6m to a maximum of ~10m, yet it has all the characteristic structural features of a true forest.

2. The tree species composition is unique, with the Afromontane species of Celtisafricana and Oliniaventosa each contributing more than 12m2/ha of basal area, followed by Sideroxyloninerme at >8m2 (this being a lowland species, and in the Cape Region mostly on coastal sands).

3. The dominant vegetation type here is Southern Coastal Forest, which is currently classified as Near-Threatened under the National List of Threatened Terrestrial Ecosystems.

4. Platbos is one of the few remaining forest patches on lowlands within the Southwestern Cape Province, as well as in South Africa as a whole.

5. This forest is the southern and western limit for Bushbuck.

6. The unique forest structure, position in the landscape, and unusual assemblage of Afromontane Forest species, Coastal Forest species, and Strandveld elements make Platbos ecologically valuable.”

Platbos Forest is situated in the Baviaanspoort Hills in the beautiful Uilenkraal Valley in the Gansbaai district, some 40 minutes from Hermanus, South Africa´s whale-watching capital.

Bird-watching at Platbos is simply supurb. Forest associated species are the main attraction with BAR-THROATED APALIS, CAPE BATIS, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, CAPE CANARY, FISCAL FLYCATCHER, KLAAS'S CUCKOO, AFRICAN DUSKY FLYCATCHER, SOMBRE GREENBUL, AFRICAN OLIVE-PIGEON and all of the sunbirds of the region being found commonly. Also interesting that CARDINAL, KNYSNA and OLIVE WOODPECKERS all occur here. In summer expect to find DIDERICK and RED-CHESTED CUCKOOS, SPOTTED FLYCATCHER and AFRICAN PARADISE-FLYCATCHER. BARN SWALLOW, GREATER STRIPED SWALLOW and BLACK SAWWING also occur in good numbers at this time of year.

The clearings and forest edges regularly produce SOUTHERN RED and YELLOW BISHOPS, BOKMAKIERIE, CAPE BULBUL, CAPE GRASSBIRD, KAROO PRINIA, CAPE SPURFOWL and CAPE SUGARBIRD in patches of fynbos. These areas are very good for raptors with AFRICAN GOSHAWK, AFRICAN HARRIER-HAWK and BLACK SPARROWHAWK being very prominent, although fairly difficult to see. JACKAL BUZZARD, VERREAUX'S EAGLE, ROCK KESTREL and BARN OWL are regarded as being common. FOREST BUZZARD and BOOTED and MARTIAL EAGLES are only recorded occasionally. Large numbers of STEPPE BUZZARDS occur in summer. Also interesting that BLUE CRANES and AFRICAN FISH-EAGLES are often heard calling and sometimes seen flying overhead.

Sleepovers at Platbos should be considered seriously, as the cacophony of bird calls during the dawn chorus is of best that the Cape Whale Coast has to offer. It is not uncommon to hear “Western Cape specials” such as OLIVE BUSH-SHRIKE, BLUE-MANTLED CRESTED-FLYCATCHER, TAMBOURINE DOVE and BUFF-SPOTTED FLUFFTAIL from one's bed. To this should be added the calls of more common species such as CAPE BATIS, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, SOMBRE GREENBUL, AFRICAN PARADISE-FLYCATCHER (summer), CAPE ROBIN-CHAT, OLIVE THRUSH and CAPE WHITE-EYE. In the distance BURCHELL'S COUCAL, AFRICAN GOSHAWK and SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL often add spice to the party.

To this should be added that Platbos is in close proximity to other top birding destinations of the Overstrand such as Witkrans, the Uilenkraals Estuary, Dyer Island, the Danger Point peninsula and many more. It therefore serves as a perfect base to explore the birding delights of surrounding areas. Detailed description of some of the top birding destinations of the region are available here: http://www.westerncapebirding.co.za/overberg/routes.php

Day visitors are welcome: one can walk for up to 3 hours and most of the trail is under the forest canopy, making this a perfect destination for hot windy days. The forest labyrinth, made from mother of pearl sea shells, is a popular attraction too. The trail is physically undemanding so only a medium level of fitness is required.

Both guided and self-guided walks are offered. Visitors are welcome to bring along a picnic and they can also purchase the African Tree Essences of Platbos Forest by appointment (please see www.africantreeessences.co.za for more on these therapeutic products from the forest).

If you would like to awaken to the dawn chorus, book for a stay in one of the rustic forest accommodation units. Each is set exclusively within the forest reserve beneath the majestic trees. Pure bliss! And your stay helps to sustain the preservation of this local and national forest gem.

To find out more about conservation work being done at Platbos, as well as accommodation options and services visit www.platbos.co.za

Entrance Fee: R50.00 per adult / R20.00 per child.

Guided tours are offered by prior arrangement.

Contact us for special rates for large groups.

Please find directions to Platbos on our website

Website: www.platbos.co.za

General Enquiries Tel: +27 (0)82 4110448

Email: info@platbos.co.za

Accommodation Enquiries: admin@platbos.co.za

The Platbos Reforestation Project

One hundred years or so ago, the extent of Platbos was far greater than it is today. Large areas of forest was felled for agriculture and later left fallow, only to be invaded by alien vegetation which outcompete the indigenous plants and create a serious fire hazard for the forest. In 2008 the owners of the forest initiated the Platbos Reforestation Project – a pioneer of its type in the Western Cape. Since then, large areas of aliens have been cleared and processed into wood chip. Each year in Spring, the Platbos staff harvest the newly germinated forest seedlings from the forest floor and rear them in the forest nursery. After 2 years, they are ready to be replanted to expand the forest. Most of this re-planting happens during the annual “Greenpop Reforest Fests” held over two weekends in May which sees hundreds of green-hearted souls getting their hands into the earth and planting thousands of Platbos trees back into the lands where they once grew. The Platbos Conservation Trust, a registered NPO with SARS, was established to raise funds for the tree planting and preservation of this forest gem.

Please visit www.platbos.co.za to read more about this project and how you can sponsor the planting of a Platbos tree.